Channel 5 – P.U.C.: VoIP verdict is fair and legal

Original Story:

The verdict is in on VoIP and according to the Public Utilities Commission, if the service provider isn't licensed in Belize, it ain't legal. According to the P.U.C., in its attempt to categorize, classify, and legalize the popular internet protocol, it has determined that if a customer downloads software and uses it to communicate with other subscribers, that person does not require a license. One such example is the Skype. But if you register with a company like Vonage and get a telephone number where anyone can contact you that service has to be licensed here. In fact, the commission points to the application form for a high speed internet connection from Belize Telecommunications Limited where it specifically contracts customers not to use the service for voice or video communication.And while the decision is not expected to sit well with all those people who have been enjoying VoIP's cheap calls, this afternoon P.U.C. chairman Dr. Gilbert Canton maintain that customers will still have a choice in telecommunications.

Dr. Gilbert Canton, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission
“The people that are out there that are using the Vonage service the way that they are using it right now are probably not going to be satisfied with the P.U.C.’s position at this point and time. In terms of how that service is affected, but we are hoping that this is just an interim situation and that the providers in Belize will start making those types of arrangements to offer a similar type of service in Belize. We are very positive in the sense that during the consultations, we know that a number of the I.S.P.s and in fact, B.T.L. has been talking about offering a similar type of service. We all recognize it might not be as cheap as Vonage but as mentioned earlier, they are not making money either. But at least it will be licensed in Belize, legal if you want to put it that way and at a rate that people will be more satisfied than using just the traditional international rates and stuff like that. We recognize that people want this type of service and we’re hoping that through this mechanism, we are opening it up so it can be offered in Belize by truly licensed providers in Belize that are playing by the rules in Belize.”

Janelle Chanona
“And that way you’ll get taxes?”

Dr. Gilbert Canton
“That way the benefit becomes truly a benefit to the country, in other words, government still get taxes, license fees are paid and the users out there have the economic benefit of lower rates and better access. Those kinds of issues.”

But when it comes to trying to fit technology into a legal box, Canton contends it's better to wait and watch than jump the gun.

Dr. Gilbert Canton
“It’s moving so fast, you put anything in place at this point in time it might be outdated a year from now. So let’s see where it’s all going to go and then once we are certain that it’s going there then we put something in place. And most people are talking about really just coming up with one law called a convergence law, which includes telecommunication, includes broadcasting and includes all these different things. Because it’s all just becoming one thing now offered over one service.”


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